Story by Nomin Ujiyediin
One of the largest private foster care agencies in Kansas has signed a new deal with the state drawn up in the wake of reports of cash shortages and elaborate spending.
The contract amendment requires that Saint Francis Ministries give the Department for Children and Families a new business plan by March 1. The nonprofit will have to report specific information about its income and costs, said DCF secretary Laura Howard.
“We’re in continuous contact with the new CEO and the board,” Howard said. “We’re paying very, very close attention both on the services side and on the financial side.”
Saint Francis has recently been the subject of a series of controversies, most prominently reported by news website the Kansas Reflector. A whistleblower complaint contending mismanagement of funds and data led to the departure of two of the organization’s top executives last year. DCF also received complaints that Saint Francis had been falsifying records. The agency hired an independent firm to audit the organization in early 2020.
More recently, the Reflector reported on a complaint filed with DCF that an unnamed Saint Francis employee allegedly sexually assaulted a foster child. And the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services entered into an emergency contract with Saint Francis last month after the organization said it was short on money to provide required services.
The new agreement between Kansas and Saint Francis addresses the organization’s financial issues. Both parties signed the contract on Monday. It takes effect immediately.
The contract also requires Saint Francis to submit a plan for how it will use any extra money to improve foster care services. The organization will have to return any unused funds to the state. From now on, all future monthly payments from DCF to Saint Francis will be reduced by the amount of unspent money from prior months. Saint Francis must also participate in monthly phone calls with DCF about recovering lost data.
The penalty for not meeting these standards could be up to a 5% reduction in administrative payments from DCF to Saint Francis.
“We are pleased to work with the state of Kansas to adhere to any requirements that they have,” said interim CEO William Clark in an emailed statement. “Saint Francis Ministries wants to be a good partner, and we appreciate their support during recent difficult months.”
Nomin Ujiyediin reports on criminal justice and social welfare for the Kansas News Service. Follow her on Twitter @NominUJ. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of Kansas Public Radio, KCUR, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio – focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.